Not every business owner begins with the end in mind. Many unexpected events can derail your thinking, leaving you in a position to consider selling for long-term success.
Finding a buyer can be daunting and tedious, whether you’re a seasoned seller or a novice. Sure, it might only be for two years from now (or sooner), but due diligence is a reality. And marketing performance is key when evaluating commercial propositions.
First, What is Marketing Due Diligence?
Marketing due diligence is a way to analyze the inherent value of a product or service. It is a standard process for any merger, acquisition, or investment partnership, and essentially, it is an evaluation that identifies gaps, opportunities, and risks associated with a business.
During this procedure, it’s natural that a seller will try to communicate ambitious numbers—apart from using other smart tactics—to enhance the value of the deal. But regardless of the conversations held, due diligence is non-negotiable. It’s a point of order to ensure buyers are making responsible, data-driven decisions for both parties’ futures.
In-house teams will always ask for account access to validate numbers. This request can be up to two years’ worth of information and will include a thorough content analysis.
What is the Role of Content in Marketing Due Diligence?
The purpose of analyzing content marketing is to measure long-term growth.
To refresh: content marketing refers to paid or organic strategies used to boost brand awareness and lead generation. It is content (written or visual) that is created and distributed via multiple channels and shared in various formats: long-form SEO blog articles, social media posts, videos or other multimedia assets, podcasts, and more.
With this type of marketing, it is important to note that there is no fast track to success.
It’s an ongoing investment.
Why Should You Care About Content Marketing Performance?
Content, in any format, speaks volumes about consistency and performance.
If we’re being honest, content quality is often a last resort. Many sellers inflate their frequency for the lead-up to a sale, thinking it will suffice. At face value, these short-term results might look good (as any immediate ROI technique would), but this does not portray the full story.
By visualizing results over a longer period of time, you can determine a brand’s true health.
Your content marketing is a direct reflection of your brand
Share of voice and visibility can influence a brand’s longevity and the value of a transaction.
Let’s look at it from a content perspective: if you’re sitting with outdated, poor-quality content, you’re not building authority. This, eventually, translates to little or near-zero conversions.
Another example is from an inflated standpoint: you’re getting a 1M traffic injection from irrelevant countries on the wrong keywords. It might look good on a report, but the reality is, those people are never going to buy either. So, think about the reputation your business reflects now.
Your content marketing can impact revenue (positively or negatively)
Organic has the potential to drive inbound sales without having to consider outbound or big paid budgets. When you show up on search engine results pages (SERPs), it’s clear that your content has been indexed, and search engines see you as a trustworthy, relevant source.
The due diligence evaluators will be able to pick up on your approach to sales through historical data, and they will see the effectiveness of your content on your bottom line. If, of course, you’re committing black hat SEO or paying for success, they can flag it as a risk to discuss.
Your content marketing is a long-term opportunity for growth
As mentioned above, buyers with strong marketing backgrounds will overlook impressive short-term results when making decisions. The proof is in the pudding, and there truly is no shortcut to achieving content marketing success. Show the evaluation team how you’ve adopted this channel, or how you foresee sustainable growth based on historical patterns.
What Are Content Marketing Evaluators Looking For?
When preparing, it’s important to have an idea of what an evaluator will look at. You don’t have to be a specialist presenting a 5-page strategy, but you do need to have a basic understanding of what’s going on. Here are some common questions that’ll be explored:
- Does an agency handle your marketing, or is it done in-house?
- Is it clear what market is being served—and do the results support that?
- What marketing channels are currently being used, and how frequently?
- Do you consider content marketing as part of your overall strategy?
- Do you use content marketing to drive brand awareness or lead generation?
- How important has proactive marketing been for your business thus far?
- What kind of content have you created in the past, and what is the outcome?
- Who do you rely on to create and distribute content for the business?
- Are you relying on search engine optimization (SEO) or paid advertising?
- How will an acquisition affect or improve the dynamic of current efforts?
5-Step Plan to Prepare For These Questions
- Prepare supporting documentation in advance
If you’re working with an agency, ask them to share their reports and strategies with you in advance. This way, you can fully understand the commercial value your business brings. If you’re a small team that does everything in-house without professional processes to date, sit down and prepare information around common marketing questions, operations, resources, and more. Always put yourself in the buyer’s shoes and think about what you would like to know. These answers can act as supporting documentation to show that you’re prepared and serious about the acquisition.
2. Track your performance in a reporting format
Every business should be tracking its performance in some way, and the same goes for content. When you have an inclination that you might want to sell, stay on track with your results by merging this information in a report. Some of the metrics that will add value for your evaluators are your year-over-year (YoY) and month-over-month (MoM) results. For example, traffic fluctuations, click-through rate (CTR), rankings, conversions, downloads, social media engagement, and more. Considering that you will need to be prepared to discuss and prove these numbers, there is no harm in tracking them in advance. When you can visualize it, you’ll be more confident in sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly up front.
3. Perform some form of a content audit
If this is not your strength, you’re not expected to pull out all the stops. However, a small inventory with the necessary information will go a long way as a supporting document. By creating an inventory of your assets (exporting website’s URLs, newsletters, social media updates, videos, etc., into a spreadsheet), will help you visualize everything you’ve done on your website for content marketing. Use this document to analyze the quality and relevance of your output compared to your competitors and initial goals, or use it to jot down any thoughts on top-performing assets or areas of improvement. This data can help evaluators see if you’re meeting your traffic, engagement, and lead goals according to previous KPIs.
4. Create a comprehensive content strategy
Again, it’s not a requirement to have a content strategy in place. If you do, you’re already a few steps ahead, and it will likely reduce the time spent on having to discover everything from scratch. Use the results gathered from your content audit to support your overall thinking and business direction. When you align the two, it will be easier for evaluators to understand what you had envisioned for your marketing efforts and where you’ve fallen short. Be sure to feature your content marketing channels, formats, budgets, and promotional plans used in the past.
5. Identify your resources and assess skill availability
Depending on your priorities, your resources will look different. As you prepare for due diligence, make sure you’ve clearly defined your teams and their responsibilities in your content marketing plan. If you cannot pinpoint the right people for the job, make it known that you’re lacking. Either it can be a skills development process or the need for an entirely new team. Evaluators will always want to know these details to understand how much additional effort will be required from their side to meet your potential.
Each buyer has their own requirements. And by that, we don’t mean that a good product with poor content efforts won’t be considered. Not at all. These investigations are simply put in place to better understand a business’s dynamic and, ultimately, flag any concerns.
There is never a guarantee that a deal will materialize—but preparation helps. We strongly encourage every seller (or future seller) to know what’s going on with their content marketing and understand the goal and purpose of their SEO and paid content strategies.
Tune in to saas.unbound episode with Jane Portman @Userlist to learn how they leveraged content marketing for their long-term growth goals.